Category Archives: The New Gods #1

Day 57: Mobius Chair!

The “miraculous” Mobius Chair (though it’s been called “devilish,” as well) is the device by which Metron of New Genesis traverses the “dimension winds” of space and time. The academic god boasts, “Walls and distance mean little to me! I can be anywhereeverywhere — when I wish it!”

“There are no barriers to the Mobius Chair of Metron, the knowledge seeker of New Genesis! No world or universe seems unreachable!” Well, truth to tell there is one boundary he has yet to cross: The Final Barrier.

“It can defy any barrier –BUT the one which guards the secret of the ‘Source’!” mulls Metron.

On the edge of the Promethean Galaxy, with the still figures of failed giants who attempted to pass through the Final Barrier and discover the secret of The Source, Metron travels on his Mobius Chair, contemplating the mysteries beyond. “I’ve leaped the stars toward the final barrier!! A lesser celestial would begin to show fear in this area.” (But, alas, before he makes an attempt, Metron is called back to New Genesis.)

On a previous occasion, Metron has taken the child god Esak across the corridors of time-space to visit a world resembling prehistoric Earth, with giant saurians and savage, primitive men waging battle with reptilian humanoids. The pair from New Genesis shirt the volcanic landscape, low to the ground, as Metron instructs his young charge on the evolution of life.

(Patrick Ford, in a reply to my “Metron” entry here, astutely tells us there’s only one instance where we see Metron not in his Mobius Chair, and that is prior to its creation, in the backstory tale “The Pact.” This begs the question: Is Metron now unable to use his legs or is he permanently attached to the vehicle for other (cyborgian?) reasons?)

In the midst of the “Great Clash,” Metron develops his Mobius Chair after bargaining with Darkseid for possession of the X-Element (discovered by Himon of Apokolips), material that is also used by Metron to develop the “Matter Threshold” and later, its successor, the Boom Tube, technological leaps that change the course of new god history.

“In my Mobius Chair,” the “icy mask” of Metron tells us, “I master Time! Space! Infinity!”

Story update: Allow me to take a minute to finally give you an idea of what is transpiring in the opening pages of The New Gods #1:

In an orgy of self-destruction the old gods perish and their world is ripped in two, and those molten spheres cool to become the sister worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips. We meet Orion, summoned home to New Genesis, to “thwart the ultimate destruction.” He is greeted by LIghtray, faithful companion, who escorts him back to the floating city of Supertown, which Orion notes “still glows with eternal splendor!” A talk with ebullient Lightray shows us Orion is plagued by a darkness not dissimilar to the one covering Darkseid’s sinister planet.

Orion meets with New Genesis leader Highfather and they visit the Chamber of The Source to receive a message. They are joined by scientific god Metron and they discuss The Source, which gives them the dispatch “ORION TO APOKOLIPS — THEN TO EARTH — THEN TO WAR.” As Orion departs to fulfill the Wall’s edict, Metron hints at the shadowy origins of “Orion the MightyOrion the Fierce — could this be one born of New Genesis?” Highfather tells him to hush up as it is not time to reveal such a dark secret to Orion.

Aboard his Astro-Harness, Orion takes a cosmic “journey which is to lead him to a strange destiny…” The warrior ponders, “Ahead lies Apokolips — in the shadow of New Genesis –! There’ll be no cheery greetings there.”

Tomorrow: Planet Darkseid!

Day 56: Metron!

The omnipresent, cold and calculating Metron is the Eve of the Eden called New Genesis, he who has bitten the forbidden fruit of knowledge and seeks answers, whatever the expense, regardless of consequence, to his all-encompassing curiosity. He, the master of time and space and infinity, rides the cosmos and timeways of existence on his Mobius Chair, a miraculous, wondrous vehicle that can materialize on Apokolips, in space, at the very edge of the universe, all in the wink of an eye at Metron’s slightest whim. “Luckily for you,” he tells Lightray, “I am everywhere when needed!”

His loyalty is not to Highfather but to the pursuit of knowledge, and Metron is willing to compromise the very survival of his home world, New Genesis, if Apokolips can help in finding the answers he desires. At worst, you could call him a traitor, a “supreme” meddler at best, but Metron sees himself in the loftiest of terms, justifying his cosmos-shaking intrigues by saying he is a seeker to questions about the ultimate power, The Source. Metron is delusional in believing himself a mere humble scientist.

We’re never quite sure of Metron’s motives as he influences events at key moments in the Fourth World saga. He appears, usually, to be an ally of Orion, Lightray and company; but when the backstory of the epic is revealed, we find the seeker maneuvering players and events that portend cataclysmic repercussions. Frankly said, Metron is a schemer who manipulates people and events to serve his desires, not so unlike his professed mortal enemy (and sometime ally), Darkseid.

Metron is the great inventor (if not the visionary) of both New Genesis and Apokolips, having first developed the “Matter Threshold,” which physically links the two worlds and was later refined as the Boom Tube. He is also incisively involved in seeing prophecy fulfilled, serving as a spirit who prods the son of Highfather at pivotal moments in the life of young Scott Free.

It is obvious that this decidedly non-physical character — his furrowed brow gets the most exercise in this saga (I mean, he sits on his skinny fanny for most of the duration!) — was an essential actor when Jack was planning the opus, given the fact Metron was one of the few characters featured in the artist/writer’s initial presentation to DC. And Mr. Kirby did use the Master of the Mobius Chair for a number of critical moments in the series:

Early in the days of the “Great Clash,” Metron tries to seize the X-Element from Darkseid’s grip and we learn of the Master of Time and Space has been less than loyal to his native world, as the stone-face villain says, “On my conditions do you obtain it, Metron!! You recall our ‘private’ meetings!?” And despite the fact Metron knows the armies of Apokolips will invade New Genesis “in the wink of an eye” if he follows Darkseid’s orders to create the “door to anywhere,” the Matter Threshold, all the seeker cares about is obtaining the “unobtainable” X-Element to build his Mobius Chair.

At this infamous occasion, Metron declares his individuality to Queen Heggra and her son Darkseid: “I have no link with the old gods — or new!! I am something — different! Something that was unforeseen!! — On New Genesis — or here!!”

And Darkseid knows what is in store for those who employ this cosmic double agent: “You’ll betray us all in time, Metron!”

Metron also takes a keen interest in seeing the son of Highfather, young Scott Free, run away from Apokolips, fulfilling Darkseid’s scheme to provide a catalyst to break the Pact and thus renew open conflict — only now a wider Super-War, this time involving Earth — with New Genesis. But while the Master of the Holocaust intends for Scott Free to be killed in the escape attempt, this Master of Elements and his oft-collaborator Himon, the Master of Theories, see that the Mister Miracle to-be flees via Boom Tube and arrive on our planet, safe and sound. (Or is Metron merely an observer… hmmmm…!)

(It’s important in noting, too, that Metron comes to young Scott Free at important intervals during the lad’s nightmarish servitude on Apokolips, appearing as a haunting apparition to prod the boy to have courage and eschew the brainwashing in Granny Goodness’s orphanage — to believe in his own individuality… To be Scott Free and find himself…)

It’s difficult, also, not to see Metron as also a supreme believer in destiny, as the character appears time and time again to help his New Genesis brethren to escape their own predicaments: Metron delays the confrontation between Orion and Kalibak the Cruel, in the half-brothers’ first meeting as adults (quite probably to keep Orion in the dark, until the opportune moment, about his own direct lineage to Darkseid). And immediately thereafter he explains the Apokoliptian threat not only to their home world, but to Earth and the entire known universe, to comrade Orion.

In a memorable exchange, Orion lays out differences between the two new gods. “I feel! I anger! I fight! — and you — You are like your cold machines!” declares Orion the Mighty. Metron cooly replies, “I serve life in my own way! What there is to know — I wish to know! My knowledge is my power! Time and space is my domain!

Metron goes on to hint at his contribution to recent events: “When the old gods died, their bridge to Earth was destroyed! It was I who found the way to create what our young ones call the Boom Tube!” By his own machinations, Metron brings the threat of Darkseid to our unsuspecting, innocent sphere, leading one to wonder just why is the seeker boasting about reuniting gods with humans…

When Lightray is threatened with the final touch of The Black Racer, the bringer of death to the new gods, Metron intercedes by deflecting the cosmic skier to Earth, thereby igniting yet another chain of events, some not so good!

A bit later on, Metron takes on the youngest new god, Esak, as student and travels the corridors of space and time to teach the boy, instilling in Esak a similiar unrelenting thirst for knowledge, one that just might have ferocious consequences at the grand finale of our epic.

We may not quite understand Metron’s motives at any given interval. His ally Orion raves, “For a scrap of knowledge you would sell the universe into slavery!” (To which, the seeker replies, “Who runs the universe matters not! What makes it run is my prime objective!”) He has a deep and abiding relationship with Himon of Apokolips, one that influences the overarching course of events. It is a collaboration we’ll discuss in detail later…

Most of all, perhaps, Metron is the embodiment of absolute conceit and self-aggrandizement, possessing a supreme lack of humility as he believes he is entitled to become privy to answers about the greatest mystery of eternity: the secret of The Source. “What wouldn’t I give to possess the knowledge of the ‘Source’!” In his Mobius Chair, he travels to the Final Barrier, confident he can accomplish what the Promethean Giants could not, and penetrate into the realm of infinity to discover the secret of life itself. In the end, Metron, “the seeker and wielder of cosmic knowledge,” may prove to have been the greatest, most ignorant fool of all.

Day 55: The Source!

The Source, as Orion the Mighty exclaims, “It is eternal!” Says Highfather, “It lived even as the old gods died!” Metron describes it as “serene — omnipotent — all-wise!” The Black Racer tells us simply, “The Source is all!”

The Source exists beyond the Final Barrier, “In one of the last frontiers, where all things begin to lose perspective and all roads to The Source come to an end.” Metron, the cold intellectual new god, as ever seeking to unravel the great questions plaguing him, visits the Final Barrier on the edge of the Promethean Galaxy. “And beyond all knowledge and sweeping concept, the mystery of The Source lies…”

The Source is connected from its unfathomable home to the Wall of the Uni-Friend, located in the Chamber of The Source in Supertown on New Genesis. “This Wall is our link with the ‘Source!‘” says Highfather. And, via the Wall, it is linked with the New Genesis leader’s “Wonder-Staff” and all the Mother Boxes on his planet and Apokolips.

The Source communicates via a moving, flaming hand called “Uni-Friend,” which spells out messages for Highfather. “The Source gives us irrevocable counsel!” Orion says. Highfather replies, “But it does not decide! The right of choice is ours! That is the Life Equation!” (Thus, the curse of humans is shared with these new gods: free will.)

“It is the Life Equation!” Orion explains. “And its power is a part of your Wonder-Staff!

Highfather thunders in reply, “Silence! The Wonder-Staff which called you is in turn summoned by The ‘Source!‘ The Wall awaits the written word!

And we see the ominous message sent to Highfather from beyond the Final Barrier: “Orion to Apokolips — Then to Earth — Then to War” and later, “War — Follow Orion.”

The Source is also directly connected to Willie Walker, The Black Racer, who tell us, “The Source gave me this knowledge — this power! It was The Source that chose Willie Walker for this mission!”

Is The Source God? Is it Heaven? It is, assuredly, proclaimed to be the place where dead gods go for final rest, as does Seagrin after his demise by the hands of the Deep Six…

The Source was first revealed to Highfather, who was still Izaya, during the “Great Clash,” when the Inheritor was going through his monumental identity crisis and is on a solemn quest through war-torn New Genesis. It is perhaps the most Biblical of Jack’s sequences, as a Moses-like Izaya struggles through what appears to be a sandstorm in a desolate desert:

“The dry wind rises and the elements disturb the sky!! Violent electrical flashes twist and stab across the darkened land!!!

‘Izayaaaa–!‘” implores the Inheritor.

“The echo becomes a roar! The roar becomes a thousand drums beating to the mad music of the wind-storm!!! — drivingdriving the questing spirit — to The Wall!!! Ageless, inscrutable!! — It stands — as if waiting — waiting in the sudden calm — for Izaya to communicate!

“‘If I am Izaya the Inheritor — What is my inheritance!?

“– And from the wall the answer comes!!!


On the Wall, a single phrase: “‘THE SOURCE

“And across the wall a hand of flame brings Izaya — the Uni-Friend!

Day 54: Highfather!

The bearded old gentleman with the “Wonder Staff” is none other than the solemn leader of New Genesis, Highfather, the true father of Scott (Mister Miracle) Free and stepparent of Orion the Wolf. He is the wise and benevolent ruler, seated in the satellite city of Supertown, who carries a great foreboding weight on his strong shoulders.

Highfather’s sister-planet counterpart would like to believe they are commensurate, as Darkseid tells The Forever People, “On Apokolips, my rank is equal to Highfather!! Minions of great might quake at incurring my disfavor!!” But the eminence of New Genesis is far from the flipside of any good/evil coin. To say the least, his backstory is complex:

As we learn in the seminal New Gods story, “The Pact,” there was once a great warrior who is a leader of New Genesis. His name is Izaya the Inheritor and he is blessed with a lovely, delicate wife, Avia. One day, when the loving couple have a romantic respite on the green planet’s bucolic surface, they share a tender exchange:

“Are we made for war, Izaya?” asks Avia. “You know, I’ve never heard you sing!! Sing, Izaya! Let me hear your voice when it’s not a battle-cry!”

“I can’t sing as yet, Avia!!” Izaya answers. “It’s your devotion that feeds my aching spirits!!”

Suddenly the pair are interrupted by an illegal hunting party encroaching from Apokolips, among them Queen Heggra’s brother, arrogant Steppenwolf, and her beloved and conniving son, Darkseid. In the ensuing tussle, Avia is killed by Steppenwof’s radion bolt and Izaya’s unmoving body lays in the grass, apparently a victim of Darkseid. But the Inheritor is not dead.

And so “The Great Clash” began and terrible and woeful violence was perpetrated against both sides, New Genesis and Apokolips, and war expanded exponentially — first air war, then ground war, then techno-cosmic war, the conflict growing until suns are destroyed and planets are hurled in the name of victory. Even the death of Avia’s killer fails to stop the conflagration. Each of the twin worlds pays a terrible price for Izaya’s vengeance and Darkseid’s ambition.

Izaya, in a moment of grim reflection, realizes war is not the answer and, walking through the desolation that was once beautiful New Genesis, he seeks a new place in his world. the Inheritor cries, “Where is Izaya??” — not the warrior! — The general!! — but, the true servant of those he leads!! Not here, in these tortured ruins of war! But Izaya is there! — Somewhere — out there!!

In his lamentful sojourn, Izaya ponders the enemy. “Darkseid’s plan!! Like foolish Steppenwolf, I’ve allowed myself to follow the mad dreams of Darkseid!! — from which no one can survive!!!” Then, raging into the rising tempest winds, the Inheritor screams, “I tear off my armor! I reject this war-staff as a weapon!!! I reject the way of war!!” And still he staggers through roaring gusts and demanding his inheritance from whatever gods there be of gods, suddenly, there is revealed, The Source.

From The Source, in messages spelled out by a mystical floating hand called the “Uni-Friend,” comes the essence of Greater Good, a new life for Izaya, now the Highfather, and his people.

To end the Great Clash, Highfather and Darkseid (now ruler of Apokolips) agree to a pact, trading their respective sons with the promise there shall be an age of peace between the worlds. When savage, feral Orion first meets the man he believes his progenitor, the boy asks, “You!You are — my father??”

Highfather replies softly, “Only if you wish me to be! I am Highfather!! And you — are Orion!! We have need of each other, Orion!! This is a place of friends!! Here is my hand –!!”

An uneasy peace reigns between the worlds for years, until young Scott Free escapes Apokolips (also prearranged by Darkseid, though the boy is not killed as intended), breaking the pact and a prelude to renewed conflict. And now, today, Darkseid is initiating a “Super-War,” one waged with the planet Earth as battleground. Highfather knows the stakes, as he explains, “The universe — slave or free — On Apokolips their ruler, Darkseid, has already made that choice!”

Yes, Highfather is wartime leader of the emerald world, but he still devotes time listening to the lyrical songs of Fastbak and other youthful choral members of Supertown. Highfather and his New Genesis honor the young as a matter of faith. “First, we bow to the young,” Highfather tells his son, “they are the carriers of life! They must remain free, Orion! Life flowers in freedom!

As leader, he is also obligated to answer the queries of The Council of the Young and he is especially attentive to the plight of The Forever People, even as the group disobeyed him by traveling to Earth. When the team is sent via Darkseid’s “Omega Effect” into past eras on our planet, Highfather intervenes by reuniting them courtesy of “Alpha-Bullets” shooting out of his fingertips.

In a poignant exchange, Highfather engages one of the smallest of the new gods, who is asking for his help to rescue the Super-Kids. “Well, Esak!! Is one of the youngest of New Genesis to add his voice against my edicts!?” asks Highfather.

Esak replies, “Not against your edicts, Highfather!! But for our friends!! Is this not a world of friends?”

“Look at me, Esak!” cries Highfather. “Am I not as cold and stern as Darkseid?”

The boy answers, “Darkseid is the fire-pit of destruction!! Highfather is the tranquil green of morning!! The time when the song of life begins!!”

“And what of power, Esak!!? Is this not the naked fist of power??

True! — But power to which the lightning dances!! — On the infinite roads of time!!”

Forsooth, it is the music and song of life for all that Highfather seeks, not only to assuage his own loss. Having never sang for sweet Avia, the former Izaya finds solace in melody. “The song ends — but the beauty of it must never fade! Or die, Orion!

“In this cause,” his faithful and tormented son replies, “I live as well!”

Day 53: New Genesis!

Home world of Orion, The Forever People, Lightray, Highfather, and many other new gods, as well as the birthplace of Scott Free, a.k.a. Mister Miracle, New Genesis counts Truth, Love and Freedom as allies in their great war against sinister Apokolips. The singular municipality, a satellite city the young people call “Supertown” (described by — who else? — Superman as, “It’s Incredible! Beautiful! Majestic! Supertown is truly a place for super-beings!!”), floats above the Eden-like planet, a lush, pristine globe of natural splendor.

“No more glorious sight has ever greeted any eyes than that of New Genesis, home of the New Gods,” trumpets The New Gods #1, “A golden island of gleaming spires that orbits a sunlit, unspoiled world of green forests, white mountains, and bright waters…”

NG #2 proclaims: “New Genesis is a world caught up in the joyful strains of life!! There are no structures on its green surface — except those which serve the cause of well-being… Destiny’s road is charted in the city, massive yet graceful — gleaming on its great platform — a skyborne satellite drawn in endless silence by its hidden mechanisms!”

In the beginning of the saga, we do see New Genesis as the perfect home, a place of love and friendship. When the young gods called The Forever People bid a young Earthling adieu, Beautiful Dreamer says, “Good-bye, Donnie! We leave you what cannot die — Love! Friendship!” And her comrade Serifan adds, “It is so in New Genesis! It can be Here!

Highfather rules New Genesis with a benevolent hand and he regularly seeks the advice of The Council of the Young. (Supertown was indeed a very hip ’n’ happening place, man!) At one point distressed about The Forever People, Highfather proclaims, “Darkseid raises his children to destroy and die!! You know that it’s our duty to provide the alternative!!

In these, the early days of the Super-War, idyllic New Genesis is still physically untouched by the conflict. But only a little while prior, Apokolips attempted a preemptive attack. In The Young Gods of Supertown segment, “Raid From Apokolips,” denizens of Darkseid attempt to use a Thermo-Bolt Machine to take down the orbital city of Supertown, only to be thwarted by Big Bear. The vignette has an ominous epilogue:

“Of course, this incident occurred in the days before Darkseid openly broke the peace and chose Earth as the battlefield!! But, even then, the energy flame-pits burned brighter on the sinister world of Apokolips — as its dark shadow began to crawl across the sun-dappled green of New Genesis!

But to call, as I have in these entries, New Genesis a “virgin” planet is wrong, for the world of gods as we know it reemerged from a terrible, cataclysmic conflict called “The Great Clash,” which started when a ruler of Apokolips, Steppenwolf and young Darkseid, his “obscure and humble” nephew (and son of ruler Queen Heggra), partake in a hunting party on New Genesis. There is an incident (planned by the future Master of the Holocaust) when Steppenwolf kills the wife of New Genesis leader Izaya the Inheritor and the poachers leave Izaya for dead. But (as was Darkseid’s intent) the Inheritor lives and commands his forces to wreck horrific vengeance on Apokolips with massive bombing forays.

A precursor to the Boom Tube, the “Matter Threshold” materializes Apokoliptian death machines (called Dragon-Tanks) onto the surface of New Genesis and repeated raids are made on Izaya’s home world. The Inheritor kills Steppenwolf, both still unaware of Darkseid’s orchestrations, and with the death of Steppenwolf, the son of Heggra has escalated the confrontation into a “Techno-Cosmic War”!

“Techno-Cosmic War produces techno-cosmic machines!! — Machines that draw the debris of space and send it crashing down upon New Genesis!!… Giant biological mutations are bred in Apokolips’ laboratories! — Turned loose to pillage and kill!! New Genesis fights back with equal innovation!!! Wherever the giants tread, the ground beneath their feet cracks wide from seismic shock and swallows them in its deep recesses!!! But the war grows ever larger!! It reaches across the universe and mammoth suns are transformed into cosmic-lasers — designed to cut New Genesis into blazing, lifeless shards!!

Larger! Larger grows the war! Larger grow the ‘God-Machines’!! An impacter, the size of a planet, is sent crashing into an enemy-captured sun!! And inside Izaya of New Genesis, something dies with each such deed!! Where will this end? How can he destroy the cosmos — and yet save New Genesis!?

“‘We are worse than the old gods!’” laments Izaya. “‘They destroyed themselves!! We destroy everything!! This is Darkseid’s way! I am infected by Darkseid!! To save New Genesis — I must find Izaya!!’”

And thus the Inheritor searches for his own identity, not that of a warrior but something… more. He wanders the “ugly landscape, empty of all that was once New Genesis!! It’s soft, green forested lands are gone!!” The former paradise is desolated, smoldering weapons of war replacing the vegetation. “A wasteland!!” grumbles Izaya, “Seared and cracked and gaping with endless pits — in which bacterial monsters fester and play!!!” And amongst such devastation Izaya finds his inheritance, The Source, and the warrior lays down his war-staff and becomes The Highfather, a lover of peace and virtue.

New Genesis, even today, is not quite as serene as initially imagined. Beneath the surface, strange beings — monsters — evolved from germ warfare used in the “Great Clash,” and then there’s the plague of “micro-life” used to infest the planet. In other words, there’s the matter of the “Bugs” and their nests under the ground of the super-world… but we’ll get to those “destructants” eventually, chums.

Let’s leave you with this homily about the “good-guy” planet: “To serve a friend is certainly to serve New Genesis!!

Day 52: Lightray!

Lightray is, according to Jack’s pin-up of the character, “[l]ighthearted and brimming with personable qualities, [and] he is the friendliest of the New Gods! But when battle comes, he is a formidable foe! In the clash between New Genesis and dread Apokolips, Lightray turns the power of light into a weapon of astounding magnitude! Follow his exploits! As goes Orion, so goes Lightray — into domains where even gods are subject to the whims of grim destiny!”

Orion and Lightray are the best of companions, though as contrasting as night and day… or, more aptly said, darkness and light. Orion says, “We are different, you and I… and yet — good friends!” They are compatriots, many times at one another’s side in these opening days of the Super-War.

“I am Lightray of New Genesis, lady!” he tells Eve Donner, “A child of light! — Plunged into war! However, unlike poor Orion — My scars are yet to come!”

Lightray is almost always joyful, telling his friend, “To laugh is to feel the beat of life! Live, Orion! Live!” The young new god is also exceptionally well-mannered, graciously kind to strangers, and a courteous guest, though Lightray is not afraid to berate Orion to mind his manners!

As you can read in the pin-up, Lightray controls the power of light, plus he can fly at (you guessed it!) light speed. “I govern the power of light,” says he. During a fight with Kalibak the Cruel, Lightray emits powerful rays from his hands, called “Solar Thermo-Beams” and “Nova Bursts.”

Even as the New Genesis leader tells our subject, “You are the youngest of those assembled, Lightray! Your time to clash with monsters is not yet here!” Lightray disobeys Highfather and joins Orion’s fight against the Deep Six on our planet, only to be momentarily vanquished, left to die on the Earth ocean, floating on the Deep Six Control Ship, wrapped like a mummy in mutated light-absorbing, steel-fibered kelp.

During that “Glory Boat” adventure, Orion rescues Lightray and lambasts his friend. “Well — well — well –!! So the smiling lamb decided to try his hand among the wolves, after all! Yours is a sorry welcome to Earth, Lightray!! I see your first brush with war — and The Deep Six — has been little short of disastrous!!” The fierce son of Darkseid comments moments later, “It saddens me to see you here, Lightray! Your kind brings an undeserved honor to war!!”

It is during this sea battle when we see a more complex side to Lightray, one that might be allegorical when it comes to civilians waging war instead of generals. On the Deep Six’s Control Ship, in lieu of joining Orion in decimating the mutated “organic director” — a “Sender” — he tells his friend, “It shouldn’t be destroyed!! It should be changed!!” And the young god uses his powers to transform the misshapen creature: “Light! Light! — Not to glisten on swordblades! — But light at play with atoms — to make them sing in other ways!!”

It is reduced to a “white-hot compact core,” a brilliantly glowing cube. “It’s now a living basic life form!! — Stripped of the taint of Apokolips,” says Lightray. Adds Orion, “It will grow again — in the image of New Genesis!” Using his Mother Box housed on the forehead of his facial harness makes the new critter a “Caller,” which will eventually bring the enemy to them.

When next we see the “Caller,” it has morphed from a “Life Cube” into an organic, evolving machine… It has become “Techno-Active.” Then, in perhaps the most climactic — and dramatic — moment in all of Jack Kirby’s enormous body of work, the “Caller” is now the ultimate weapon of New Genesis, “singing and shining and sleek and deadly!!! What Lightray has ‘imprinted‘ on the ‘Life Cube‘ is now fully ‘grown!‘ And it carries on its glistening warhead the living — the dead — and the fiery trumpets of the Source!!!” Like Berzerkers rushing wildly into battle without care for life or limb, the “Glory Boat” careens head-on towards the Deep-Six and their monster Leviathan! “The trumpets blast on impact with the enemy! Thunderous notes! — White-hot, elemental and all-consuming!! A Wagnerian offering to the Source!!

But the complexity of Lightray’s machinations is found in Orion’s distress before the final showdown. “You fight battles like a planner,” Orion screams, “instead of a warrior!! The enemymyself — this dead boy — and his father — We’re all your pawns!!” It’s a curious moment and worth pondering. The look and effect of this, the “Glory Boat,” sure appears thermonuclear, and why can’t I shake the vision of Robert McNamara and his fellow “Best and the Brightest” out of my head? The most noble of intentions…

Nearing the end of the saga as published, after Orion has survived another titanic battle, Lightray beckons the dawning sun to bathe his wounded comrade: “Then, let the coming light be bright and strong — let it play upon those wounds — let it bring things that wash — the pain — with — pleasantries — Then let me aid the light! Let me give my added power where it can hasten all the good things this day may hold for brave Orion!”

There’s a notable moment in The New Gods #3, when The Black Racer is chasing down Lightray. The harbinger of death exclaims: “Destiny has decreed that our paths should cross!” And yet, with the assist of Metron, Lightray dodges that fatal bullet. But it led me to wonder if Lightray, bright, cheerful, full of hope and happiness Lightray, was predestined for an “untimely” demise…

Because, y’see, though I know he appears later in “Wild, Wild Wedding Guests” (Mister Miracle #18), in the final issue of The New Gods, Lightray seizes the initiative of the “Combat Code” to take on Kalibak and embrace, in his words, “the rare shock of battle,” and the half-brother of Orion slams the young god (apparently) to a bloody pulp. But with the Black Racer coming for either Orion or Kalibak, Jack forgets to tell us the fate of Lightray (or did I miss something?). Was Lightray to have been beaten to death by Kalibak the Cruel?

Is Lightray doomed from the start? Is dear, sweet, beautiful Lightray one of the gods “subject to the whims of grim destiny”?

Day 51: Astro-Harness & Astro-Force!

When we first meet Orion the Fierce, he is traveling the spaceways upon his Astro-Harness, a sort of cosmic glider. Fellow new god Metron calls the device Power Rods and it is named the Astro-Glider by The New Gods #4 and Astro-Harness in #6. (Since Astro-Harness is used more than once, we’ll stick with that nomenclature.)

More important than a mode of transport, the Astro-Harness houses the awesome power possessed only by Orion, the Astro-Force. “I wield the mighty power of the Astro-Force!” the New Genesis warrior exclaims. “It is a grim and fearful responsibility!” (And apparently a danger also to the wielder, as at one point Orion warns himself, “The Astro-Force — I must use it — though I myself may be caught in its unleashed power!”)

But the most vital aspect is that the harness itself houses Orion’s Mother Box because she protects him on the outside from becoming the raging monster within.

Orion tells Slig before the “Glory Boat” epic, “Yes, you croaking frog! [The rumors are] true!! Orion is flawed!!” because his true Apokoliptian face is revealed, and the Deep Sixer responds, “More than that! You’re a mad, tormented animal, Orion!!

“I would be, Slig!! I would be! — If it were not for the Mother Box!! Mother Box protects me! She calms and restructures and keeps me part of New Genesis!!” (Apparently not very soothing, as he proceeds to brutally kill Slig and, in an especially chilling scene, delight in destroying Slig’s Mother Box, all because the Deep Sixer was witness to Orion’s true face.)

An interesting sequence with his unique mode of transport takes place when Orion goes into a closet while describing Inter-Gang to his Earth allies, he starts putting together the Astro-Harness and disengaging his Mother Box from the thingamagig.

A few other Astro-Harness and Astro-Force factoids:

• Orion can summon Astro-Force through his wrist circuits

• “On Orion’s harness, a small but powerful ‘element-transmitter‘ emits a strong magna-beam, which locks on the raft below!!” (in “The Glory Boat,” NG #6)

• A unit on the Astro-Harness houses the dreaded Astro-Force (or did I say that already?)

• The Astro-Harness creates “a shield of air molecules around him” for Orion to travel underwater

• The emissions from the Astro-Force weapon are called both “Astro-Blasts” and “Cosmi-Force”

• It can be programmed for others to use, as Lynn Sheridan is flown to safety onshore in the “Glory Boat” story

Besides his rage, Orion’s Astro-Force is his greatest weapon: Amongst the wreckage of its wielding: Used against Kalibak; destroys Darkseid’s Fear Generator; utilized to slow a rapid descent; shatters the Inter-Gang “Mother Box Jammer”; antagonizes a giant clam mutated by Slig of the Deep Six; zaps said Slig; unravels a “mummified” Lightray; and, “like lethal lightning,” completely destroys Jaffar, Slig’s brethren.

Me, I say, the Astro-Harness is the absolute coolest super-hero accoutrement ever! I mean, look at this, the Orion concept drawing by Jack!


Day 50: Orion!

The titanic warrior of New Genesis, son of Tigra and Darkseid of Apokolips, wielder of the Astro-Force and all-around eternal with the most rage issues, folks, let me introduce Orion, greatest of the New Gods.

Honestly, it’s not easy to conjure up the adequate words for this superb Kirby character, a complex, brooding, angry and (quite literally) two-faced hero of Jack’s Fourth World masterpiece especially because he plays such an integral role in the epic. And Orion’s destiny, to bring an end to the Super-War between New Genesis and Apokolips, is hinted at early on in this chronicle of his cosmic adventures.

“Of all the celestials,” his companion (and opposite) Lightray says, “you are the one most plagued by shadows!” Orion concurs, telling his friend, “I am two worlds — like New Genesis , and that demon’s pit — Apokolips! — One drifting forever in the shadow of the other–”

Highfather explains to Lightray, “He, alone, has been fighting his monsters from birth!” For Orion is “savage offspring” of Tigra and Darkseid, the fruit of a prearranged marriage, and as a boy, the fierce “murderous little monster” is used as barter in the Pact between the Master of the Holocaust and Highfather. Orion is traded for Scott Free, the man-child of Highfather himself. “Our son was raised without knowing his father!!” cries Orion’s mother, and Darkseid replies, “But I know him, Tigra!! He’s like you! — A fighting, snarling killer-cat!!

Orion is raised in New Genesis, and though he doesn’t know of his sinister lineage, he suffers depression and seeks solace on the pristine planet. All we see of his time before the Super-War is an encounter with Lonar and the battle-horse Thunderer, when Orion spooks the living artifact of last monumental holocaust, striking alarm in the steed, which doubtless senses the warrior’s Apokoliptian heritage. Orion laments, “Fear! Fear at the touch of Orion!! Is it not always so?!”

Orion is forever conflicted by his bloodline. His Mother Box gives the illusion that he has a handsome, flawless face, but when Orion is in brutal combat that deception evaporates and we see the true snarling, ugly visage of a merciless warrior. Orion knows that he, at his core, is deeply defective though he has yet to discover the truth. When Orion delays an attack on Darkseid, the demon despot observes “Finish me — and you finish yourself!You hesitate, Orion! You can sense why — but you don’t know — do you?”

We will learn the prophecy that the ultimate battle in this Super-War will be waged in Armagetto, a sector of Apokolips, where father and son will face off in the “Last Battle of the New Gods!” Playwright Eve Donner, Deep Six Slig, half-brother Kalibak, they all sense that Orion will not survive the war because of the conflict raging inside his own soul.

Orion is singular possessor of the dreaded Astro-Force, a powerful, destructive beams which is emitted from his transport device, the Astro-Sled (which also houses his Mother Box). He is also mighty effective with his fists and, of course, is a born combatant. His nicknames include Orion the Hunter and Orion the Fierce. “A free and angry Orion is more than a menace! — He is the ultimate in mayhem!”

In a rare moment of slight levity, Orion takes on a disguise as a Metropolis gangster, cleverly named O’Ryan, with his earthling compatriots, who join in the subterfuge as (what else?) O’Ryan’s Mob.

Nearing the end of the initial run, when Orion and Lightray find some peace on the terrace of Eve Donner, aforementioned playwright, her hand reaching to the brutalized face of sleeping Orion, and she muses, “There is something in that fierce and mangled face beyond anything I’ve ever written about! The sleeping monster — the raging heart — a vessel of fire — which consumes — even love.”

The red-headed warrior awakes and replies, “As for love, madam — I find love in battle hotly fought! — In vengeance fulfilled!!

Before the new gods depart, Eve shares with Orion her fear that “You’ll never survive your war! You’re big –! But not bigger than what’s eating you! Your enemy, Darkseid, will use it against you!”

He joyfully lifts her off the ground and says cryptically, “And, though I pay for victory with death — I shall seek you out in that final moment!”

In the end, with darkness descending, will Orion finally find what he needs most of all, the soothing caress of a loved one…?

Day 49: The Birth of the New Gods!

Their world torn apart in an orgy of self-destruction, the old celestials pass onto Valhalla and make way for the new eternals, as the globe’s violent rendering form two spinning, molten spheres, worlds that will cool to become planets named New Genesis and Apokolips, one a Eden-like paradise, the other consumed with fire and brimstone.

And so Jack Kirby sets the good-and-evil duality of his saga, as these worlds are the respective homes of Darkseid and Highfather, worlds about to be engulfed in a Super-War.

These planets are the homes of the New Gods, and they are the stage where we will learn of the many fascinating and engrossing characters that will be cast in the Fourth World epic. We will meet Orion, son of Darkseid and hero supreme of New Genesis; Scott Free, the soon-to-be Mister Miracle; Kalibak the Cruel, Orion’s half-brother; Metron; Himon; Desaad; the Female Furies; Esak; Granny Goodness; Fastbak; Steppenwolf… Oh, you get the idea! We are in for a fantastic journey, a multi-layered saga of Shakespearean proportions, chock full of Dickensian touches, Faustian lessons and Faulkneresque family drama.

We, my friends, are about to go cosmic…

Day 48: The Death of the Old Gods!

Who but Jack Kirby would begin the masterwork of his life with an epilogue, and one that (metaphorically, at least) eliminates his prior legendary characters in a conflagration of death and inferno, closing the book on the myths he created for a certain House of Ideas. Look closely at the hammer-wielding warrior about halfway down and to the left on this page-one splash page of his New Gods #1 and you tell me that doesn’t resemble a God of Thunder. (You want more evidence? Check out the artifacts Lonar discovers, particularly the winged-helmet, in “The Young Gods of Supertown” back-up vignette in The Forever People #5, when he chances upon a city of the old gods.)

Yes, here we finally witness the End of It All: Ragnarok! Warring gods battling for pride and possession and resulting only in their mutual destruction! “An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!”

(Allow me a quick aside regarding Jack’s frequent use of the word “holocaust”: It needs to be understood that the term, as we know it today, pretty much singularly refers to Germany’s war against the Jews (and other folk despised by the Nazis). The U.S. Holocaust Museum, for instance, is devoted to the genocidal events on the 1930s and ’40s in Europe. Though frequently a term used to describe the attempted extermination, the connection between the word and the event wasn’t etched in stone until, of all things, the broadcast of a U.S. television mini-series, Holocaust, in 1978. (The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as “Great or total destruction by fire.”) So please note, the former Jacob Kurtzberg, acutely aware of the Nazi atrocities against his people, the Shoah — as you will see in the allegories to follow — was not using the term lightly.)

Besides the ruins of an old city chanced upon by Lonar and The Source, all that survives the great destruction are the “living atoms of Balduur” and the evil “which was once a sorceress” (Karnilla, Balder’s lover in The Mighty Thor?), which respectively settle upon the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips, planets sprung from the split sphere of the dead celestials.

As in the real world, life follows death and the eternal cycle begins again, and so it is from the ashes of the Old Gods rise the New.